Rockets and airstrikes in Gaza follow deadly Israeli attack on Jenin | Israel-Palestine conflict News

Gaza City – A deadly Israeli incursion into the occupied West Bank has sparked grief and anger in Gaza. Rockets have been fired into Israel and hundreds of Palestinians have participated in vigils and demonstrations to condemn what they describe as a “massacre”.

After nine Palestinians were killed in Israel’s raid on Jenin on Thursday, armed groups in Gaza declared a state of high alert, calling the raid “a new Israeli crime” against the Palestinian people.

Following the announcement, two rockets were fired from Gaza into Israel, an attack claimed by Palestinian Islamic Jihad. They were shot down early Friday by Israel’s Iron Dome air defense system, and Israel carried out airstrikes on locations in Gaza that it said are used by armed groups including Hamas and Islamic Jihad.

Khader Habib, a spokesman for Islamic Jihad, said in a statement that the Palestinian people had been “subjected to unprecedented killings and attacks by the new Israeli government in all parts of the West Bank amid the complete absence of international intervention.”

“As long as the Palestinian people are alone in the confrontation, we have no choice but to resist with everything we have as the only way to defend ourselves,” Habib said.

Israel had not carried out a raid on the scale of its Jenin operation in years, but it is part of intensified Israeli military incursions into the occupied West Bank that have killed at least 200 Palestinians in the past year.

Hisham al-Hato, who took part in a protest march in Gaza, said he was sending his “support and solidarity” to Jenin.

“We are very sad and angry,” al-Hato told Al Jazeera. “Israeli crimes against our people in the West Bank must stop. Gaza and the West Bank are one heart.”

Hamas spokesman Hazem Qassem told Al Jazeera that what had happened in Jenin was “a war crime.”

“The crimes of the occupation will not go unpunished nor will they succeed in breaking the will of our Palestinian people,” Qassem said as concerns grew over an escalation in the conflict.

Possibility of more conflict

Reham Owda, a Gaza-based political analyst, told Al Jazeera that a major escalation is unlikely despite Palestinian factions threatening to respond to the Jenin raid.

“I think the factional responses are moral responses,” Owda said. “They continue to adopt a policy of restraint because they don’t want to divert attention from the West Bank to Gaza.”

While Israel carried out a three-day assault on Gaza in August, killing at least 49 people, most of the focus in the past 12 months has been on the occupied West Bank.

Owda says that the factions can occasionally carry out limited responses to Israeli actions in the West Bank, but predicted that Egyptian and Qatari mediation would likely contain the situation.

Gaza has yet to rebuild from previous wars with Israel, and many residents along with Hamas, which runs the Gaza Strip, want to avoid another conflict.

“The factions want to focus on showing the spirit of popular resistance in the West Bank represented by the military groups that are active in Nablus and Jenin,” Owda said. “They don’t want to return Gaza to the [centre of events] as it usually happens.”

Palestinian youth wave flags.
Palestinian youths protest near the Gaza border with Israel [Abdelhakim Abu Riash/ Al Jazeera]

Still, tensions are high. Mass demonstrations and other events are planned for Friday in Gaza to mourn the deaths in Jenin. Crowds in central Gaza angrily condemned the killings.

Dozens of Palestinians also approached the fence separating Gaza City from Israel, where they set tires on fire.

Protester Uday Habib told Al Jazeera that Israel “only understands the language of force.”

“It is difficult to remain silent in the face of these crimes, and we in Gaza are calling on the resistance to respond and for the protests to escalate, even if we pay the price again,” Habib said.

“Gaza will not abandon Jenin despite the siege [on Gaza] and all the concerns that we suffer here,” he said. “It is true that we are afraid of a new war, but the options are narrow for us. The occupation continues with its aggressions. Should we stay silent?

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